Developer Christopher Cook is on track with his rehabilitation of the McCrory’s building on 11th Avenue downtown, according to his annual report to the city Redevelopment Authority Friday, in keeping with Cook’s purchase agreement for the property.
Cook has spent around $300,000 since obtaining the building several months ago, he said. Workers replaced the roof right away.
They’ve also removed 30 tons of debris, removed rotted portions of the second- and third-story subfloors, then patched the openings; installed a 200-amp electrical service, pumped out 250,000 gallons of water in the basement, repaired a broken downspout that had caused most of that flooding and cleaned out a pipe connection to ensure the roof water continues to vacate the premises, Cook told the board.
Cook has hired an engineer to do drawings for the mechanical, engineering and plumbing work and plans have been made for the upstairs apartment framing, he said.
Having received one short-term loan, he’s applied for another for $250,000, with intentions to repeat the process “until full financing is available,” he said.
He’s hired an expert to do an “as-completed” appraisal that he hopes will be about $2.2 million, as a basis for obtaining the full financing.
He has applied for $500,000 in historical tax credits from the state, which was approved, after he revised the application to meet state requirements.
The tax credit application is now with the National Park Service, which also needs to approve, he said.
If funds are available, he should receive them.
He has begun to discuss potential additional funding for the project from the Altoona Blair County Development Corp., he said.
By the end of 2023, he hopes to have all the project financing secured, all the plans finished and approved by the city, all the mechanical, engineering and plumbing contracts bid out, prices for the elevator and the storefront obtained and framing constructed for the apartments on the second and third floors, he said.
He also hopes that installation can begin on the mechanical, engineering and plumbing work.
“We’ll kind of see where we go from there,” he said.
Ultimately, the building will have a three-phase, 600-amp electrical service, he said.
He hopes to finish by the end of 2024.
“We’re still on target for that, as long as everything falls into place,” he said.
There is still about an inch of water in the basement, according to Cook.
It’s likely ground water, he said.
He has installed a sump pump to ensure the water doesn’t rise, and he thinks one may need to be installed permanently, he said.
There is still debris in the basement, which workers will clean out when it’s warmer than the current 50 degrees in the structure, he said.
After that cleanout, workers will check to see where the water is coming from, he said.
The basement was in use 40 years ago, but “a lot can change (in hydrological conditions) in 40 years,” he said.
He doesn’t plan for an active use in the basement but would like to keep it dry for building safety, he said.
He plans to use the grants to pay down the loans, but he’s prepared to finance the whole project if the grants don’t come through.
The potential funding sources won’t require him to pay “prevailing wage” for the project, he said, in answer to a question from authority Chairman Richard Fiore.
Six employees are working full-time on the site, Cook said.
He plans to get the apartments in the upper two floors occupied before building out the ground floor restaurant and grocery store, he said.
The upper floors will generate the most income, he said.
At least three vendors have inquired about first-floor spaces, he said.
There are seven altogether, he said.
The state requirements for the historical tax credits included maple-strip, rather than vinyl flooring; a grid pattern for windows in back and locating new side windows farther back than originally planned.
The changes are fine with him, Cook said.
He has made inquiries about purchasing the vacant lot to the immediate left of the building from the perspective of someone facing McCrory’s, he said, in answer to a question from Fiore.
The owner wants $500,000, he said.
“Too much,” he said. “No one will pay that much for a 75-foot lot.”
He’s offered to get the lot appraised, then pay that amount, but the owner has refused so far, he said.
“Very encouraging,” Fiore said, after Cook had left the meeting. “He appears to be ahead of all the milestones we set by a significant margin.”
Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 814-949-7038.